San Quirico D’Orcia
San Quirico d'Orcia is a town of ancient Etruscan origins, preserving a beautiful medieval structure. Located in the province of Siena, on the Via Francigena route that here partially coincides with the path of the Via Cassia. It is located on the hills that separate the Val d'Orcia from Val d'Asso, a territory with breathtaking views, part of the UNESCO World Sites.
The first document on San Quirico dates back to 712 AD in a note regarding a dispute between the dioceses of Arezzo and Siena, for the possession of some parishes. Among these is the parish church of San Quirico in Osenna. "Osenna" takes us back to the likely origin of the Etruscan town. The name will remain the same until the Seventeenth Century.
During the 11th century the effects of proximity to the Via Francigena, with pilgrims travelling to Rome from northern Europe, resulted in a rapid growth of the village. San Quirico was appointed as an important stopover location in the chronicles of the time. In 994 Sigerico, Archbishop of Canterbury, cites San Quirico as one of the major stations along the via Francigena. Even the Emperor Frederick I, heading to Rome to be crowned by Pope Adrian I, made a stopover at San Quirico.
Still in the 11th century part of the territory is feuded into the Ardengheschi family accounts, but between the 11th and the 12th century San Quirico belonged to the empire and a vicar was based here. San Quirico in 1180 ended up under the jurisdiction of Siena and became one of its cornerstones in the south countryside. In 1205 there was a meeting here of the Tuscan League, with the aim of making arrangements to conduct the policy of hostility towards Montepulciano that, sometimes with Orvieto, where mining the hegemony of Siena.
To prevent attacks the Sienese authorities decided to strengthen the fortifications. In 1262 the village became a Vicariate and 1385 the inhabitants were granted the citizenship of Siena.
The village developed along the main road, where many shops were built, workshops and taverns. It was established a weekly market that helped to increase trade, thanks to the duties and taxes exemption enacted in 1385. In 1552 San Quirico was the basis of the troops of Charles V, who came down in Tuscany to help Florence conquering the Republic of Siena. The commander Don Garzia choose the village to make the basic support of its raids in the Val d'Orcia. With the defeat of Siena in 1559, San Quirico joins the Medici State. In 1667 the village was granted in fief by Cosimo III to Cardinal Flavio Chigi, and remained in possession of his family until 1749.
What to see in San Quirico D’Orcia
Among the most important monuments are to be mentioned the beautiful Collegiate church of Saints Quirico and Giulitta, built over the ruins of the church of Osenna dating back to the eighth century, with a magnificent Romanesque portal with zoomorphic sculptures and a lintel with the fight between monsters. On the right side there is another Lombardic portal supported by caryatids from the school of Giovanni Pisano.
On the back of the collegiate there is Palazzo Chigi, built by Carlo Fontana for the Cardinal Flavio Chigi. Walking down the via Francigena, today called Via Dante Alighieri, you arrive in Piazza della Liberta’ with the church of San Francesco, bearing a Madonna painted by Della Robbia.
On the square there is the Porta Nuova, opening to the Horti Leonini, an Italian style garden built by Diomede Leoni in 1540.
Continuing you come to the church of Santa Maria Assunta, in Romanesque style with Lombardic influences, with another interesting portal built with material coming from the Abbey of Sant’Antimo.
Of the defensive structures there are remains of most of the 15th century walls, with just some portions missing. 14 towers and turrets are still visible, some of which are incorporated in other buildings. The Porta Nuova gate is still there, amended several times over the centuries and the original Porta dei Cappucini gate with a central six-sided shelves crowned by small stones that support the arch. Finally in the Horti Leonini garden there are the remains of the city gate tower that was partially destroyed during the German retreat in 1944.
A few kilometres before San Quirico d’Orcia, on the Via Cassia in direction of Siena, a sign on the left indicates the village of Bagno Vignoni, whose age-old vocation as spa is already indicated by its name.
What in other towns is the main square is here, instead, a rectangular pool 49 metres long and 29 wide, from the bottom of which bubble up a number of hot springs whose therapeutic quality has been renowned since antiquity, as witnessed by a 16th Century inscription that calls these waters “sacred to the nymphs”.
All around time seems to have stopped at the epoch of St Catherine of Siena, to whom is dedicated the little chapel under the loggia that surrounds the pool against a background of ancient buildings, the most striking of which is the palace built of travertine erected by Bernardo Rossellino for Pope Pius II, bearing his dynastic coat of arms on the facade.
EVENTS AND FESTIVALS
Festa del Barbarossa | Third Sunday in June